You may have met Ayesha Bell, the lovely lady behind AIRR Clothing, but we thought it was time to introduce her in a blog, here is Ayesha’s AIRR Clothing story.
Ayesha’s background is in business, she loved business studies and ended up one of the top three students in her year group. Leaving school at 17, Ayesha wrote the business plan for AIRR Clothing when working for her father in Wirksworth.
In the midst of the recession Ayesha decided to put forward her business plan, but the clothing industry had hit difficult times- there was no trust for new businesses. Instead she made links with John Smedley, where she discovered how a business could be run using natural fabrics, the strength in a family run businesses and the importance of sustainability.
Ayesha’s passion for these core principles were ignited more when she met with People Tree. She was blown away by the ‘norms’ of the fashion industry. She didn’t want to be part of an industry where waste, bad working conditions and pay were being hidden from the buyer. Instead she began looking into ethical fashion, organic fabrics and fair trade.
There were struggles, lots of fairtrade clothing was not ‘fashionable’ and sometimes the materials used weren’t the greatest quality. Finding brands who created clothing which was good quality and good-looking proved hard to find. She had to pick and choose carefully. She needed good quality, long-lasting wearable pieces.
After a short while, Ayesha came up with four main principles, which she still whole heartedly runs AIRR Clothing by today. The items in the shop HAD to be;
This can be difficult, you have to do it right first time in order to make sure you don’t produce too much waste.
Ayesha now has a fantastic business where her work force is made up completely of local mums.
‘This evolved organically, but there was an importance of being able to offer flexible working in order to sustain the difficulties of working in a small rural town, where there can be huge living costs – such as we pay the living wage and are flexible around school time holidays and drop offs/pick ups and all help each other out.‘
Ayesha discovered another hurdle while keeping the business working effectively. How far can we maintain an ethical business before it becomes unethical?
‘At the moment it’s the norm to buy stock 12 months ahead, for example buying Autumn Winter 2017’s stock in November 2016 even though you can’t guess what difficulties will lie ahead. What’s going to happen in the economy? What’s the weather going to be like, will it be a bad Winter? Will there be dramatic price changes of goods as a lot of our suppliers are importing goods? There are so many unknowns and uncertainties these days.’
So, Ayesha has decided that now, she will no longer continue to forward order. It has become unsustainable when thousands of pounds and hundreds of items of clothing has to be sold each season, (without choice of change in season) because the promise has been made to the orders, regardless of the surrounding changes that may happen between now and then.
Instead AIRR will only buy when the stocks are getting low, from companies who do a in-season order policy, such as Earth Kind Originals. There will no longer be over stocked shelves, reducing the impact of the wasteful industry. These are exciting times for the shop! 2017 is going to start with an exciting change to the way AIRR Clothing is run.
‘ I feel that because the shop is based in a small town and therefore frequented by the same lovely people, AIRR clothing offers a more personal shopping experience. I like to think that we’ve built up a relationship with our customers over the years and know everyone’s individual tastes and styles’
This means AIRR Clothing will now be buying pieces that Ayesha feels her customer base will enjoy rather than being encouraged to buy what the fashion industry pushes down from the top.
There is talk of introducing new lines of ethical skincare, handbags, shoes, children’s clothes, homeware, an upcycling/recycling services and still a small selection of new line items from brands that are already in AIRR. There may even be a re-introduction of menswear to the shop, something for everyone!
Ayesha will be hoarding through brands, collections, warehouses buying overstocks from other companies hopefully creating a trickle effect to reduce the fashion industry waste.
‘ I want to create a place which is tailored to the beautiful town we live in, that still runs with the same core principles AIRR Clothing has always stuck to. It’s exciting as we have been thinking about this concept for over a year or so and working out how we can change but still stay the same in many ways, there’s lots of brainstorming and research which is great as it is naturally evolving and changing as we go.”
“I can’t wait until next year for the relaunch.” Ayesha
Exciting times for AIRR Clothing! We can’t wait. Thanks for the interview Ayesha!